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Does the Bible Contradict Itself?


I’ve found some Bible texts that contradict each other. They are: 2 Chronicles 36:9 and 2 Kings 24:8; 2 Samuel 8:4 and 1 Chronicles 18:4; and 2 Samuel 10:18 and 1 Chronicles 19:18. What’s up with that?

Steve Answers:

Let’s look at the “contradictions” you mentioned.

“Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months and ten days. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 36:9).

“Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. His mother’s name was Nehushta daughter of Elnathan; she was from Jerusalem. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father had done” (2 Kings 24:8, 9).

The second reference adds some more information. But I’m guessing that the “contradiction” you’re pointing out is Jehoiachin’s age when he became king. The King James Version says “eight years” in 2 Chronicles 36:9 and “eighteen years” in 2 Kings 24:8, 9.

I usually prefer the New International Version, though, which takes into account ancient manuscripts found since the King James Version was written. The NIV includes with 2 Chronicles 36:9 a footnote explaining that most Hebrew manuscripts record the word “eight,” but one Hebrew manuscript and some Septuagint and Syriac manuscripts record “eighteen.” It also suggests that you look up 2 Kings 24:8.

A similar number “contradiction” appears in 2 Samuel 8:4. This passage records David capturing 1,000 chariots, 7,000 charioteers (1,700 is mentioned in the NIV footnote as the number used in some copies), and 20,000 foot soldiers. And David “hamstrung all but a hundred of the chariot horses.” First Chronicles 18:4 doesn’t give the 1,700 as an option.

The third “contradiction” you mentioned concerns the “men of seven hundred chariots” and the 40,000 “horsemen” recorded in 2 Samuel 10:18 as opposed to the “seven thousand men which fought in chariots” and the 40,000 “footmen” in 1 Chronicles 19:18 (KJV).

Your questioning these peripheral contradictions makes me think that maybe you’re reading the Bible as if you were a copy editor, making sure everything is correct before sending it to the printer. If you’re reading the Bible this way, you could be getting the details but missing its point.

The Bible isn’t a manuscript free of all typos, yet here’s why God gave it to us: “The whole Bible was given to us by inspiration from God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives; it straightens us out and helps us do what is right. It is God’s way of making us well prepared at every point, fully equipped to do good to everyone” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17, TLB).*

Since God’s chosen to communicate His Word through mistake-making humans, there are “errors” or “contradictions.” What’s amazing to me is how much consistency there really is.

I’m also amazed at how the Bible’s main points really open up a person’s life to the transforming power of God. And that’s a miracle—not the absence of typos!

*Verses marked TLB are taken from The Living Bible, copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, Ill. Used by permission.

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